Okay folks, hang in there! Judging by the lack-luster statistics after posting Part 1, we can all agree it wasn’t THAT exciting getting TO Romania….but we promise – It gets better!! SO here is Part 2 of the adventure, hiking from Busteni to Bran!
As you know, we stayed a few nights in the town of Busteni (lower right corner of the map). This is now the jumping-off point for our first trek.
As the stay-at-home wifey, Matt has bestowed the VERY important job of trip planning upon me and I didn’t want to disappoint! I spent countless hours researching the different hiking routes by reading trail descriptions and reports to identify which ones would offer us a good balance of nature (for me) and physical exertion (for Matt Davis). I concluded our best route was a 2-day trek was to meander through a forested valley from Busteni then climbing up towards the mountain plateau, and finally drop back down to the town of Bran.
The host at the hotel in Busteni shared an amazing (!) app called Muntii Nostri with us that provided route details for all the trails in Romania – VERY IMPRESSIVE and VERY USEFUL!
So, after a delightful breakfast and coffee, we set off for Cabana Malaiesti. As you can see from the first picture, our first day would consist of UP….a tiny flat…then more UP for about 5-6 hours. And boy-o-boy, that picture didn’t lie. Right off the bat, we were hiking UP UP UP! But even as the terrain climbed, so did our delight in the mountains and trees. OH the fresh air, the trees, the birds singing… boy did we miss it!!
We’ve come to accept on our adventures that trail quality can differ widely across the world. We often take for granted the well-made and maintained trails of the grand ol’ USA, and Romania didn’t fail to remind of this. While the trails had very consistent and clear markings (colored lines or dots on trees and rocks), it clearly made the most sense to forgo any type of switch-back to ease the pain and opted for the most direct and steep route up the mountain….. (okay, yeah the trail looks fine here….but I swear it was steep!)
At some point on the climb, I think I entered the land of Type 2 fun (not fun during the activity but rewarding in the end) and therefore cannot recall many details….thankfully Matt takes pictures!
And THEN, all of a sudden (actually after about 3 hours of climbing), the world flattened out and we found ourselves in the most AMAZING field of wildflowers! It was simply breathtaking! We were giddy with delight and took an obsessively long time trying to capture and enjoy its beauty – so many colors and varieties! Only nature could accomplish such perfection and creativity in laying out this landscape! I later learned that Romania has some of the oldest and most varied flower varieties likely due to minimal pesticide use/spraying, it seems like a reasonable explaination!
If it weren’t for the fact that I knew a few more hours of hiking meant sleeping in a real bed, I would have called it quits right there and frolicked in the flowers for the next couple days! Alas, we must keep hiking!
After lunch, we proceeded to the next UP section and enjoyed many marvelous views of the mountains, a little rain, and a couple tricky trail sections with cables and ladders (not my favorite thing). And a few “short” hours later (another 3 hours), we arrived at our destination for the night!
I believe mountain huts are God’s gift to women who must chase men like Matt Davis! We were welcomed to a warm hut full of jovial Romanians “warming up” (aka getting drunk) for the night ahead. We quickly learned that most people hike in from a town only 3 km away and carry very light day-packs, showing up with 10 days worth of vacation stuff got us a few sideways looks …(while we probably didn’t need a laptop, 2 phones, an ipad, “cute clothes”, or half a dozen other things, Matt Davis just calls it training weight). Along with the big packs came tired bodies, so we quickly dropped our bags and enjoyed a few glasses of hot tea.
The cabana sits in an amazing valley below the highest peak of the mountain range (Omu). The valley was full of wildflowers and grazing horses. We were advised to drink the water directly from the stream (yes, it was in fact safe and very refreshing) and shuffled around the valley taking pictures until dinner time.
As the evening progressed…..so did the drinking and we were delighted by the drunken cantor of Romanian campfire tunes. It reminded us of many wonderful nights around the campfire with our friends….although this time we had NO idea what they were singing. We also enjoyed a dinner of soup, polenta, sausage, and bread – you can’t beat a warm meal (that you don’t have to cook or clean the dishes) in the mountains! Did I mention it was only $8/bed and $5/meal?!
In the morning, we ate breakfast and prepared for another long day. According to the map, we had a quick UP, a little flat, more UP, then a lot a lot of DOWN. SO with that, we were OFF and immediately met by some SERIOUS UP! While Matt, with a bigger and heavier pack, joyfully frolicked up the bush covered mountain side of loose soil….I slowly followed, questioning my sanity and need to continue on this journey (trail/life/etc) with Matt Davis…..Thankfully I decided to continue and eventually made it to the top. Unfortunately when YOU plan the trip, you don’t give yourself much room to complain….. (Matt: My master plan!!! Muahahaha (fingers curled like Dr Evil))
At the top, were met by another beautiful valley. We traversed along its fringes and over to the neighboring mountain side. This valley must act as a holding place for storms as we enjoyed some serious rain and thunder loud enough to rattle our bones and question if we should seek shelter!
At the top, we dried off and enjoyed a small storm shelter before starting the LONG way DOWN to the town of Bran (you can see it behind Matt in the picture above right by his right hand). While I can’t say I LOVE to go UP, it’s often better for me in the long-run because my feet HATE going down. Everything was more-or-less OK with my dainty lady feet until about half way down when I could feel my toe blisters getting VERY angry. We paused to assess and 1 blister had indeed popped….allowing me to enjoy the feeling of raw pinky-toe flesh welcoming each and every step. OUCH! Has Matt mentioned he married me for my capability to suffer with grace (among a long list of other wonderful qualities I’m sure)? Somehow the journey is worth the pain…or is it the pain is worth the journey?…..oh I don’t know…….anyways, we proceeded DOWN DOWN DOWN.
We eventually popped out on a ski-run turned cow pasture for the summer. The trail led to a road which took us into the town of Bran. We stopped for a beer and eventually stumbled tiredly to our home for the night, The Guesthouse. We were SO delighted with these accommodations, we decided to stay for 2 nights to explore the town of Bran.
The highlight of Bran is the Bran Castle. Often thought of as Dracula’s Castle, it boasts a long history as a fortress and eventually a vacation home for royalty (click on the link if you care). It was beautifully preserved and had a very informative audio tour.
Due to the current disastrous state of my feet, we took it easy for a day and managed to find a hotel nearby with a hot tub. We also stumbled upon another SPA! $25 for a 90-minute hot stone massage?! OKAY – fine! SO we each got another massage and it was MIND-BLOWING! We booked another massage for the following day as well as a night in that hotel so we wouldn’t have to go ANYWHERE afterwards….then proceeded back to The Guesthouse in a complete stupor.
The next day was our second wedding anniversary (insert floating hearts and googley eyes) so we opted to celebrate with a day hike….the anniversary “bonus” was that we got to take a taxi to the top of the hill (aw, Matt Davis, such a romanic…..more googley eyes). While this still meant my dainty, now raw and blistered, lady feet would still need to hike down, it wasn’t nearly as steep and we were once again welcomed with endless hillsides of wildflowers and breathtaking views.
We relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the day in the hot tub, getting massaged, and eating ice cream!
OH and #feedingmattdavis
OKAY! That concludes Part 2! Stay tuned for our third and final installment in a few days…..